White Collar Crime: What It Is (and What It Isn’t)

July 13th, 2017 by Attorney Dan Carman

Lexington Criminal Defense Attorney

Generally, criminal activity falls into one of two categories: “conventional crime” and “white collar crime.” When the average person thinks of criminal activity, what comes to mind first are probably conventional crimes — in other words, any criminal offense committed against another person, someone else’s property, or involving drugs. White collar crime is a commonly used term, believed to have been coined by a criminologist around 1939 who defined it as “a crime committed by a person of respectability and high social status in the course of his occupation.” It has since evolved to encompass lying, cheating, or stealing while committing fraud as primarily perpetrated by business and government professionals. In most cases, a lack of force or weapons differentiates white collar crime from conventional crime.

Also known as “street crime” or “blue collar crime,” conventional crime is often violent. It includes any offense that goes against the will of the victim, such as assault, battery, sexual assault, homicide, domestic violence, and robbery (mugging/purse-snatching). While crimes against property don’t necessarily involve bodily harm or the threat of it, many offenses are still considered blue collar, including burglary, arson, auto theft, shoplifting, and vandalism. Drug crimes involve the manufacturing, possession, use, or sale of any illegal substance, and are frequently the primary focus of street gangs.

White collar crimes don’t get quite as much attention as blue collar crimes, presumably because they are thought to be victimless. It’s easier to point to a person who has been physically hurt when assigning injury and blame. However, financial crimes committed by government or business professionals violate employers, individuals, taxpayers, the economy, and sometimes even the planet. Fraud, forgery, money laundering, internet scams, extortion, environmental law violations, securities violations, embezzlement, and tax evasion are just a few examples of white collar offenses that result in suffering. Just ask those taken in by Bernie Madoff and his Ponzi scheme.

“White collar,” “blue collar,” “street,” are not legal terms, yet the distinctions between the high-level business/government crimes and more conventional street crimes are important ones. Violent crimes usually ensure more prison time and more vigorous prosecution than those that don’t involve physical harm or the threat of physical harm. That type of crime is sometimes easier to prove than white collar crime, which doesn’t always produce an easy-to-point-to sympathetic victim and is often incredibly complex with layers of criminal activity. However, when aggressively prosecuted, white collar cases can conclude with stacked penalties and life imprisonment. Large cases can draw the attention of the federal authorities, as do cases that involve interstate commerce.

Whether you are under investigation, have been arrested, or have been charged, it is critical that you consult with a knowledgeable defense attorney as soon as possible. Conveniently located in Lexington, the Carman Law Firm is capable of handling both white collar and conventional criminal law issues. We are dedicated to helping those who find themselves struggling with serious criminal accusations, and we have successfully represented countless individuals who have been where you are now. Everyone deserves a fair trial, and as criminal defense attorneys with years of experience, we offer thorough, skilled representation. Call us today at (859) 685-1055 or fill out this online contact form to find out how we can help you.